Yale University Supplement Essay Topic

What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (required, 125 words)

The infamous Why X University essay requires careful research and planning, particularly in Yale's case. Yale admissions officers are infamously sensitive to applicants' interest – and that doesn't mean interest in Yale's name brand, or interest in getting into an Ivy League school, or interest in going to Rory Gilmore's alma mater. No, admissions officers want proof that you know why Yale, specifically, is the right place for you to pursue your goals. After all, there are plenty of elite schools out there; what makes Yale different, for you?

In practice, answering this question well means conducting fairly extensive research. Look into specific professors, courses, student organizations, campus traditions, and other opportunities. Include vivid, descriptive details that show readers that you can really envision yourself thriving on campus. Make connections between your current activities and those that are available to you on Yale's campus. And don't remind admissions officers that Yale is a prestigious school. Trust us, they know

Short Takes (required, 200 characters)

The following four short takes questions require applicants to demonstrate their passions and multi-dimensional personalities in 200 characters or less. No pressure! Luckily, by employing a few key strategies, you can tackle the short takes without fear. 

1. What inspires you?

Elsewhere in your application, you've demonstrated your specific interests, passions, and goals. You've listed the hundreds of hours you've dedicated to extracurricular activities. Now, Yale wants to know why. Why did you do it? What was the inspiring impetus for all of that effort and dedication? Admissions officers hope that your answer to this question reveals genuine authenticity.

Think of your response as a personal mission statement. What is the central guiding mission that connects your past accomplishments and future goals? In one sentence, capture the essence of that mission. Use your own voice here, and don't be afraid to be bold and earnest and ambitious – after all, every big accomplishment starts with a big dream. 

To get started, try writing a bullet-pointed list of answers to that WHY question. Don't think, pre-judge, or censor yourself – just write every single answer you can think of. When you run out of steam, read over your responses and look for patterns or key words that repeatedly come up. These will likely form the backbone of your final answer.

2. Yale’s residential colleges regularly host intimate conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask?

Yale admissions officers are looking for intellectually curious, engaged applicants. After all, Yale students are treated to visits from fascinating, diverse, accomplished people from around the world. The admissions team wants to ensure that they admit students who will be excited to attend these events.

Your response should demonstrate a unique perspective and connect in some way to the rest of your application. Interested in tech? Don't pick someone obvious like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. Dig a little deeper – think about interesting, engaging figures on the cutting edge of the tech world right now. Or, look for an accomplished person in your specific niche. The best questions will demonstrate that applicants are in-the-know about their chosen guest speaker's field. Essentially, your goal should be to demonstrate deep intellectual engagement in a specific field.

3. You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?

Take a look at Yale's course listings. Notice how specific and focused many of the course titles are? You can invent an equally focused course that aligns with several of your interests at once. Are you an equestrian who's passionate about art history? You'd surely be a great candidate to teach "Horses in Art: Symbolism and Significance." Or, if you have particular expertise in a field, you can create a course that hones in on your specialty.  

However, you're also free to break out of your shell and demonstrate an interest outside of your primary niche.  For example, if you're a pop culture lover with an interest in gender studies, "The Boy Band in American History" might be the course for you. You've done a good job showing how serious you are about your interests and goals throughout the application; feel free to loosen up and share a different side of yourself in this response.

4. Most first year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite?

This is a personality question. What type of role do you see yourself playing in a future suite? You have a few different structural options here.

You can create a list of features, both small and large, that you'll bring to the suite dynamic (e.g. "warm and supportive friendship, my excellent banana bread recipe, a passion for movie nights"). The list format enables you to reveal small, personal details that might not pop up elsewhere in your application.  

Alternatively, you can choose to strongly identify with a specific role: "I will be the debate moderator, always interested in others' opinions and eager to hear all sides."

Focus on being personal, detailed, and true to yourself. Rather than trying to mold yourself into your idea of the ideal Yale student, remember that the admissions team really does want to admit a diverse array of applicants, each of whom will bring unique strengths to their classrooms and friendships at Yale. 

Essays (2 out of 3 required, 250 words)

1. What do you most enjoy learning?

Yale wants to see genuine enthusiasm here. What topic could you talk about for hours without getting bored? What do you read about in your spare time? This topic is likely to be connected somehow to your primary application narrative – don't fake enthusiasm for something you're only somewhat interested in.  

Your main goal should be to convey enthusiasm and passion. Don't just describe your favorite subject – tell the readers how YOU engage with that subject. Offer vivid details of your engagement in classroom discussion, describe the rewarding nature of searching for truth through the slow and methodical research process, or capture the giddiness you feel as you crack open a new book about your favorite subject.  

2. Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

This question becomes a stumbling block for applicants who worry they haven't made a big enough impact. In fact, this is a common concern for frustrated students, many of whom half-jokingly complain that they won't get into college because they "didn't cure cancer." Let us make this completely clear: no one expects you to cure cancer!  Simply by being a good student, friend, and citizen, you have made meaningful contributions to your community. The trick to answering this question is figuring out how to frame those contributions in the best possible way.

The best strategy here is to think of scenarios in which you've played a meaningful leadership role. Think about clubs in which you held a leadership position, groups or events you organized, and volunteer or activist work you did. Then, reflect on specific anecdotes from those scenarios. Which stories stand out as being demonstrative of your broader role/impact?

For example, perhaps as the student government vice president, you helped resolve a conflict (even a minor conflict!) between the president and treasurer. Describe your effort, then reflect on how your strengths as a mediator improved the dynamic of the student government as a whole. 

3. Write about something you would like us to know about you that you have not conveyed elsewhere in your application.

This question is ideal for applicants who have something important to share that doesn't seem to fit into any other essay prompt. For example, you could elaborate on extenuating life circumstances and explain how you overcame them or describe the impact of a major life experience on your personal growth and development. These are crucial pieces of information that the admissions officers will benefit from knowing.

You also have the flexibility to be a little wacky here – but make sure you're wacky with a purpose. Go ahead and write about your quirkiest habit as long as you draw a meaningful connection between that habit and your core identity.  For example, tell us about your personal tradition of waking up each day before sunrise, then explain why that tradition is important to you: you relish the feeling of possibility offered by a new day and the sight of the rising sun inspires you to make the most of your opportunities. 


As you write your Yale application essays, remember that each response is another opportunity to showcase your personality, your strengths, and the unique qualities you'll bring to the Yale campus. Take a deep breath. You can do this!

We'll be posting "How to Write the Application Supplemental Essay" guides for Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT and more soon – stay tuned!

Looking for personalized assistance with your Yale application and essays? Learn more about our Admissions Advising Program and Essay Coaching services. 

For instant edits and detailed analysis of your application essay draft, submit it to our Insta-Edits Essay Review service. You'll receive feedback in 48 hours or less.

How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays

Most supplemental essays are carefully selected to help an admissions officer learn if you’re the right fit for their school, and not in terms of grades or test scores. What kind of person are you? What occupies your mind on a daily basis? What motivates you? What do you care about in your friendships and relationships? How do you work, study, and learn best?

Every school wants to know how much you know about their school, and the thought and effort you’ve put into selecting them and applying.

Yale is no exception. Yale is looking for students whose character shows they fit Yale. They’re looking for students who know Yale well and have applied with commitment. If you’re wondering how to get into Yale, be aware that your Yale supplemental essays are crucial.

So, how can you best show your personality and commitment through the Yale supplemental essays?

Let’s start with the idea of character. What are some of the personal characteristics Yale admissions readers care about seeing in your supplemental essays?

Leadership. Creativity. Innovation. Impact on your community. True love of learning. Just to name a few.

Yale has a strong reputation both for its rigorous academics and its serious extracurriculars. If your Yale supplemental essays don’t convey a genuine love of learning and knowledge about your field, Yale isn’t the right fit for you, which is why they ask “What do you most enjoy learning?” and “You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?” If your Yale supplements don’t show your willingness to step in and get involved in your community, Yale isn’t the right fit for you, which is why they ask “Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?” And, if your supplemental essays don’t describe specific Yale programs, faculty, courses, research opportunities, or academic resources, then you aren’t using these essays effectively to show your knowledge of Yale as the best fit for you, which is why they ask “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?”  

Here is a breakdown of the Yale supplemental essays, by question:

Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? (Pick up to 3)

First off, know Yale’s majors well.

Yale has many majors that are unique to Yale and emphasize interdisciplinary connections, such as “Computer Science and Psychology” or “Ethics, Politics, and Economics.” Targeting these majors, rather than (or in addition to) common majors like “Economics” or “Computer Science,” will make you seem more informed about Yale.  


Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or less).

This question needs to be about YOU. Fill these 100 words with concrete details about your academic commitment to this field. Remember, Yale highly prioritizes academics and intellectual curiosity. This isn’t the right Yale supplemental essay to be silly or quirky, but concrete and academic.


What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or less)

This question needs to show your knowledge of Yale. If you haven’t mentioned at least two specific Yale programs by name in your response, you’re answering this wrong. Your answer needs to include specific references to the academic areas listed above. What does Yale offer in those areas that, as you’ve just explained compellingly, appeal to you? Your answer can expand outward slightly from academics to reference a specific extracurricular opportunity or social aspect of Yale, but you should begin your answer with academic information.



Yale’s Short Takes

Please respond in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words), to each of the following questions:

The Yale supplemental essays also include shorter questions called “Short Takes.” The “Short Takes” are your chance to be more quirky. Approach these questions by asking yourself: Is this an answer they’ve heard before? Be careful, though! You never want to come off as anti-social, combative, pessimistic, or negative. There’s definitely such a thing as “too weird” for the Short Takes. Yale is not expecting some of the “outside the box” answers that might fly at a school like Stanford.


1. What inspires you?

Of the Short Takes, this is a more serious one. If you put “coffee” here, your reader is going to be skeptical (unless you currently run a profitable international coffee business). Make sure this answer is something you’re genuinely inspired by. But don’t be cliché or vague! If you put “serving humanity,” your reader is also going to roll their eyes.


2. Yale’s residential colleges regularly host intimate conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask?

This Yale supplemental essay question references one of the coolest perks of Yale: one-on-one conversations with some of the most influential people living today. While at Yale, I attended residential college events for people ranging from Sonia Sotomayor to John Irving. Dream big here! The easiest way to get a good answer is to pick a person clearly connected to one of your interests that you’ve already outlined. That way, this answer requires little explanation (explanation is difficult with the given character limit).


3. You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?

This needs to be a very original answer. It’s an academic question, but it needs to demonstrate a unique approach to your field. The full answer should be the title of the course. Again, something that requires no explanation (beyond the title itself) is an important part of a strategic answer.


4. Most first year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite?

Here is your place to carefully cast yourself in both a genuine and positive light, while still writing something new. That’s a tall order! Yale’s suites are the core of Yale’s social world and a valuable support network for students. Being able to show that you’re a compassionate friend is also important in your answer to this question. If the only thing you’ll bring to your suite is your stylish collection of hair ribbons to share, your reader won’t think you’re the type of friend who will help an international student adjust or support a suitemate who loses a parent.


The Yale Supplemental Essays

Please choose two of the following topics and respond to each in 250 words or fewer.

It doesn’t matter which of the two prompts you choose, so long as you’re not repeating yourself. As a whole, your Yale supplemental essays should immediately show what your main area of academic interest(s) is, but should also show some surprising new details. If your reader doesn’t leave your Yale supplements certain of your primary passion, you haven’t maximized showing both focus and originality.


1. What do you most enjoy learning?

This question can potentially overlap too much with one of the other supplements, such as the question on your future major or what inspires you. Be wary of repetition! However, if you’ve described yourself as a budding Biology major above and you answer here that you most enjoy playing the violin, your reader will be confused. Instead, you could describe your interest in field testing water samples and the joy of applied biology research because it’s a hands-on learning experience.


2. Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

This is the Yale supplemental essay that’s most easily repurposed from other supplemental essays you may have written for other schools. This is a very common supplemental essay topic. What are they looking for? Concrete change. Tangible, measurable change that you’ve made in your community. You can define community any way you want to—your family, your school, your town, your online forum for Lord of the Rings enthusiasts—so long as you define it in the first sentence. Short supplemental essays are never the place for essay “hooks.” Make sure your reader knows from the very first sentence what community you’re talking about and what your main contribution has been. Then, back that up with concrete examples from your years in high school (think of these examples as evidence to support your answer to the question given in the very first sentence).


3. Write about something you would like us to know about you that you have not conveyed elsewhere in your application.

This question is very open-ended. One way to approach this question is to return to your Common App Activities List. Is there anything substantial there, any activities where you’ve devoted a lot of time, but you haven’t had the chance to explain further elsewhere in your Yale application? Another approach can be to consider your high school and family context. Is there anything particularly unusual about your experiences learning or growing up? Unless you have important information that you haven’t addressed elsewhere (or can’t fit in by answering questions 1 and 2), I recommend selecting the first two prompts and eliminating choice #3.


Overall, the Yale supplemental essays are the place in your application where your admissions reader gets to know you best and in your own words. These essays are your chance to let your enthusiasm and passion shine through! Be specific. Write about the things that matter most to you. Don’t repeat yourself, but also make sure you demonstrate commitment and focus. Before you start writing, brainstorm what are the most important things about you that your admissions reader needs to know, so that these definitely appear in your Yale supplemental essays!

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